Saturday, July 14, 2007

Give Me a Home Among the Gum Trees






We traveled 4 hours inland by bus from Cairns to Undara in the Outback. Luckily for us Rollie, the bus driver, knew everything about everything. ( sarcasm) After seeing about a thousand of them, I pointed to these huge mounds and asked "what are those things"? The answer was termite mounds; two words. I got a discourse on the 3,542 species of termites, 356 of which are found in Australia, they are blind, albino and can smell wood. We learned about his friend Richard who tried to sell his house which, on inspection, was about to fall down because of termites. He was unaware of this due to the fact that since they cannot tolerate sunlight they stop eating short of going through a wall. In the photo Mike is standing next to termite mounds, which are made of termite spit and sand.
At Undara we slept in a tent under the Southern Cross, sang Australian songs around a campfire and listened to the dingos howling while we slept. We had breakfast cooked over a campfire, including damper and billy boil .Billy tea is made by boiling the water in a billy, adding the tea immediately after removing the billy from the fire, and allowing the tea to draw for a time. Then we hiked through the lava tubes.


Australian Damper Bread

This is a traditional bread baked in the coals of an open fire or in a Dutch Oven (huge lidded cast iron pot) but nowadays it's baked it in a normal oven.
Ingredients
4 cups self-raising flour
3/4 - 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
Method

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and mix in the sugar.
Rub in the butter with your (clean) hands until a fine breadcrumb texture is achieved.
For a well in the top of the flour, pour in the milk and water, and mix well with a knife until the dough come clean from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and silky, like a baby's bottom.
Shape into a mounded loaf, (some people cut a deep cross in the top) and bake in a preheated oven, 200 c / 400 F, for 25 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 180 c / 375 f and cook a further 10 - 15 minutes until done. The loaf should be a light golden brown colour and sound hollow when tapped.
If you are "game" try cooking it on a camp fire; nothing beats that extra smoky flavour, especially using Australian Eucalyptus wood to give it that special something. If you are cooking in an oven at home, try putting a few Gum Leaves in the over to smoke as your are cooking the bread.
Damper is very similar to Irish Soda Bread, and probably developed from recipes brought over by Irish immigrants/convicts.

Variations of the basic recipe are seemingly endless, but you could try substituting other liquids, such as beer for a darker colour/flavour, or varying the ratio of milk to water, and so on. Try adding more sugar and butter and some dried fruits for a dessert damper. Basically use your imagination.

4 comments:

Mel said...

Wow. Camping under the Southern Cross and howling dingos. Will there be a Westin or Holiday Inn involved in this trip sometime? This certainly makes for good blogging material. Just check your bags when you leave to make sure there are no poor little blind, pale termites hitching a ride out of there. This is much better than postcards. Thanks!

Jan said...

You...you're camping...that's like outside...in a tent...no hairdryer...you...Kathy...am I right about this?!?
It all sounds so wonderful,especially the GB Reef. You are having such an adventure. Who would have thought that your life would have taken this turn.

Jan said...

You...you're camping...that's like outside...in a tent...no hairdryer...you...Kathy...am I right about this?!?
It all sounds so wonderful,especially the GB Reef. You are having such an adventure. Who would have thought that your life would have taken this turn.

Kathleen said...

Time changes everything. I don't care about a hairdryer or even a matress, I did miss a bathroom at 1 AM when I had to leave the tent in the freezing cold and dodge the dingos.